By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2008
A federal grand jury in Miami has indicted 16 foreign individuals and companies in a broad conspiracy to send restricted dual-purpose U.S. electronics and other items to Iran for use in roadside bombs against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 13-count indictment, issued Sept. 11 and unsealed yesterday, followed a lengthy investigation that began in 2006 after U.S. forces in Iraq discovered makeshift bombs -- called improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- that included U.S.-manufactured components. Led by the Commerce Department and including the Justice, Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security departments, the inquiry traced activities allegedly conducted from 2004 through 2008.
"The dual-use items that the defendants illegally exported to Iran have military applications," R. Alexander Acosta, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in announcing the indictment. "I urge any domestic supplier who may have unwittingly helped the defendants, or others like them, to come forth and report the matter to federal law enforcement. We cannot profit at the expense of our soldiers' safety abroad."
Charges were brought against six Iranians, two of them naturalized British citizens and one said to be "residing in Malaysia," and two other people of unlisted nationality living in Germany and Malaysia. Five indicted companies were said to be based in Dubai, two in Malaysia and one in Iran. None of the indicted people is in custody.
The indictment described a sophisticated conspiracy in which items including 12,000 micro-controllers -- which can be used to trigger IEDs -- 5,000 integrated circuits and 345 Global Positioning System devices were purchased from suppliers spread across the United States via e-mail orders and wire transfers. End-users were falsely identified as universities and companies in countries including Dubai, Malaysia and Britain.
Most of the items ended up in the hands of Dubai-based trading companies, principally a firm identified as Mayrow General Trading, which then allegedly transferred them to Iran via Iran Air, the Iranian national airline.
Federal law requires licenses to export dual-use items -- those with military as well as civilian purposes -- to certain countries. Additional laws prohibit trade with Iran. The U.S. companies involved, which were not named, were said to be innocent participants in the scheme.
In a separate action, the Treasury Department also added six Iranian military firms to its list of companies sanctioned for alleged roles in Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.